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10 Foam Rolling Exercises, Stretches, and Mobility Movements

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Ahhh…foam rolling. This long, cylindrical piece of gray foam has seriously been a game-changer for me. Not only in helping this nearly 36-year old body feel 20 again, but also with overall mobility.

What is mobility? Mobility is the ability to move or be moved easily and freely. When our bodies are immobile and inflexibleour likelihood of injury skyrockets. When we are babies and children, our bodies can move so freely that our flexibility seems limitless. Think of how easily a baby’s foot can touch his/her mouth!

As we age, our mobility naturally decreases. In other words, our muscles, tendons, and ligaments become tighter and tighter. When a tight muscle, tendon, or ligament is put in a compromising position (say stretching too deep or even running/jumping too fast or hard without a warm up), injury is highly likely. Tight and unhealthy tissues can snap like an old rubber band.

How do we fix this? By increasing mobility and flexibility with numerous movements, stretches, and exercises done on a regular basis. One incredible tool in making this happen is the foam roller, which can help make the smooth out the layer of myofascial tissue. Our muscle fascia is the layer that surrounds our muscles; when bound up, it can severely limit our muscles range of motion.

In my previous blog I discussed the basics of foam rolling: Why we foam roll, what foam rolling is, and how to choose the right one for you. If you missed that post, check it out here. But for some quick Cliff Notes, here are some major benefits of foam rolling:

  • Improved flexibility and increased joint range of motion
  • Improved performance 
  • Speedier recovery
  • Help prevent shin splints
  • Decrease lower back pain
  • Prevent Runner?s Knee
  • Prevent IT band issues
  • Better circulation
  • Stress reduction
  • Prevent Jumper?s Knee
  • Reduce exercise-related muscle soreness
  • Injury prevention

And as promised, today I?m sharing my fave foam rolling exercises + a back stretch you?ll want to do all. day. long. Your muscles, fascia, flexibility, and mobility will thank you! 

Outfit Details: Reebok Leggings ? on SALE (similar here for under $20), Reebok Cropped Tank (love this similar longer style available in four colors and under $15 here), Nike Sports Bra (also available in gray)

Once again, in case you missed the tips from my intro to foam rolling post from last week, or if you need a refresher (because who doesn?t?), here are my best foam rolling tips and tricks!

Heidi’s Tips & Tricks!

  1. Gently emphasize areas of tightness during each exercise. If you have an injury, DO NOT roll directly on the injury. Instead, roll away from it.
  2. For upper body exercises, always avoid contact with your spine.
  3. Pay attention to your form throughout each exercise. This is a slow and methodical process, not a quick-and-done one. πŸ˜‰
  4. Roll for 1 minute?aiming to cover the muscle 3-4 times, then rest for 30 seconds in between rolls.
  5. Aim for at least 2-3 sessions a week (NOT daily for most exercises). Before and/or after workouts is great too!
  6. If rolling causes too much pain during any exercise, simply omit the rolling part of the exercise and apply as much pressure as you can stand while keeping the foam roller in one place on the muscle(s). Then roll to another part of the muscle and repeat, making sure you work the entire muscle.

Some of my favorite foam rollers:

Now for the exercises you?ve all been waiting for!

Calf Rolls:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended, place the foam roller under your calves, and place your hands on the floor behind you to support your body weight.
  2. Engage your core, gently lift your glutes off of the floor, and slowly roll your calves from your knees to your ankles.

*You can do many of these exercises focusing on a single leg. The same motion applies, but utilizing one leg at a time. 

Hamstring Rolls:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended, place the foam roller under your hamstrings and place your hands on the floor behind you to support your body weight.
  2. Slowly roll your hamstrings from your knees to just below your glutes.

*Again, this is one of the moves you can do with a single leg.

Quad Rolls:

  1. Lie face down on the floor and place the foam roller under your quads.
  2. Place your forearms in front of you to support your body weight.
  3. Engage your core and slowly roll your quads from your hips to your knees.

Inner Thigh Rolls:

  1. Support your body weight with your arms.
  2. Place the foam roller under your inner thigh, shifting your weight onto the roller.
  3. Slowly roll from your upper inner thigh to your knee.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

IT Band rolls:

  1. Lie on your side with the foam roller underneath your IT band.
  2. Support your upper body with your forearm and engage your core.
  3. To alleviate too much pressure on your femur, bring your top leg to the floor for added support, then gently roll from your hip to your knee.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Glute Rolls:

  1. Sit on the foam roller.
  2. Shift to your weight to one side and support your body weight with your arms.
  3. Engage your core and slowly roll your glute from top to bottom.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Lower Back Rolls:

  1. Place the foam roller on the ground and lie perpendicular to it on your lower back with your arms at your sides to support your body weight.
  2. Bend your knees, engage your core, and using your legs, slowly roll from above your glutes to just below your shoulder blades.

Lower Back Rolls (each side):

  1. Place the foam roller on the ground and lie on it on one side of your lower back with your forearm supporting your body weight.
  2. Engage your core, and using your legs, slowly roll from above your glutes to just below your shoulder blades.
  3. Repeat on the other side.

Upper Back Rolls:

  1. Place the foam roller on the ground and lie perpendicular to it on your upper back.
  2. Use your hands to support your neck, engage your core, lift your glutes off of the floor and shift your body weight to one side.
  3. Slowly roll from your upper to mid back.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Lat Rolls:This one takes the upper back roll to a whole new level and really isolates the lats.

  1. Lie on your side, making sure your lat is on the roller.
  2. Keep your arm extended as you roll.
  3. Lean in and roll out that lat! Amazing!

Upper Back Stretch: If you spend a lot of time at the computer, you probably get tight chest muscles (which can be very problematic!), and even some upper back pain. Also, for those of you that are avid CrossFitters OR overhead lifters, this stretch will improve your mobility, and consequently, your lift loads tremendously! 

  1. Sit on one end of the foam roller and gently lie back, placing your spine along the roller.
  2. Engage your core (especially if you experience lower back pain), and allow your shoulders to fall towards the floor.
  3. Relax. Gravity is your friend for this one!
  4. Do this stretch several times a day as needed. It is seriously one of my faves!

**Note: Depending on your height, you might need to adjust a little to make sure your spine is on the roller.

For those with limited mobility: Feel free to FIRST do this stretch with arms extended out to the side. Over time, as your flexibility and mobility increases, bend your arms a little closer to 90 degrees (which is the ultimate goal). You will feel this stretch mostly in your chest and shoulders.

For more of a lat stretch: Extend your arms straight overhead and relax. You will feel this mostly in your lats and chest. See below…

So…what do you think? Are you as excited about foam rolling as I am? Hopefully all of the exercises above have given you a glimpse into my routine and newfound LOVE for foam rolling! 

Give these exercises a try, and let me know if foam rolling is a game-changer for you, too!

Xo,

Heidi

Related reading:

Relieve Achy Knees with These 3 Simple Moves
At-Home Body Sculpting || Sexy Back + Shoulder Shaper
Foam Rolling 101: The Basics + How to Choose a Foam Roller
Fit in 9 Minutes: The Busy Woman?s Workout

65 Responses

  1. I have a love hate relationship with my foam roller – it just hurts so much! ? but, I always feel better after doing it!!

    @fromfull2fit

  2. This is probably one of my favorite blog posts! I always feel like an idiot when I’m foam rolling! #teambruce @aberryhill

    1. Hi Samantha: If this is a medical issue for you, then I’d definitely chat with your healthcare team about these exercises before doing them. πŸ™‚

  3. I love my foam roller! I needed different ways to open my hip after leg days πŸ™‚ Thanks for the awesome info! @shanibailey

  4. I love this post!! I love the science behind exercise/nutrition. As much as I love lifting heavy, I also love focusing on mobility. Focusing more on my mobility and stretching over the last year has really helped with my range of motion while lifting. I?ll be 41 next month! I gotta take care of this body! Instagram ~ @onefitmom

  5. Talk about lifesaver. Doing this before and after workouts have cut my recover time more than half. Hard to pick my favorite blog as I love them alllllll. IG: RoxStar3D

  6. After reading this, I bought a foam roller and now I?m addicted! Some of my favorite recovery! Thanks for the tips. @ciaracashley8

  7. I love this post! I?ve noticed way better recovery since I?ve started using a foam roller more frequently. It?s a must for recovery ?
    IG: @sweet_eureka

  8. Thank you for this! I recently got injuried and my physical therapist said to foam roll! Now I have more ways to do it!
    Booty band give away
    @swole_syd

  9. It’s a LOVE… Hate relationship with the foam roller. Excited to try these new streches! Thank you for providing your insight & knowledge!
    @meganhamerl on Facebook for the booty band giveaway!

  10. Love foam rolling, has helped to bring my training back up to par and ease the IT band pain I was having after a long walk. Tight muscles are never a good thing.

  11. Love love love this! Love my foam roller but basically only had one move I did! I have super tight hips and IT band from running! I?m @kristinelser on facebook for booty band giveaway!

  12. What a great article with so many different uses for the foam roller. God knows we need as much help as we can get to avoid the post workout aches n pains and to keep from stiffening up!! I’m also going to be informing my father in law of these moves as he has been incapacitated with terrible sciatica this last week so he could really use some foam rolling to help with that…thanks for all your amazing tips advice and tutorials Heidi, we really appreciate them xoxo

    @natsomiltso

  13. Stretching and foam rolling is such a huge part of my pre and post workout since I?ve had a bad hip injury. My PT recommends it as well. Thanks for your tips and i throughly enjoy all of your positivity!

    Amanda @amandapanndaaa

  14. Since you first posted this, I have been working on being more intentional with stretching and foam rolling. I don?t want to just do these when I?m sore or injured, but as part of my everyday routine! Love these steps and rolls!

    @mommayoerger

  15. I am going to try these today! I am feeling those jump squats today and need a good stretch!! @meganblizzard

  16. I have to roll the dough back out after I murder myself with a workout. Love the tips and tricks you share! ? @evil.queen.kimberly

  17. Do most of these before every work out and I loveee the other moves you have shown can?t weight to try them out!! @emyllys_sweatlife

  18. I’ve been needing this post! I never foam roll cause honestly I could never really get the hang of it. I hear people stress the importance of foam rolling but it always felt very awkward to me. Thanks for the instructions and tips. I’ll have to give it another try.
    @lubakotovich

  19. I really need to buy one of these… My stepson is a personal trainer and swears by these as well. Thank you as always Heidi!!! @gsvillanueva6

  20. I loooove foam rolling now thanks to this post post! Stretching is my least favorite thing to do at the gym, but foam rolling is easy & the BEST way to feel better without feeling like you?re ?stretching?! I love your app & blog! Thank you for sharing all your tips for health & wellness!

  21. This blog helped me so much., so it’s my fav blog post ? Decreased IT band and knee pain from rolling! Thanks! @avery.dodge on IG ..

  22. This blog helped me so much., so it’s my fav blog post ? Decreased IT band and knee pain from rolling! Thanks! @avery.dodge on IG

  23. Thanks for these!! I really need to get my foam roller out and start rolling again. So right!!
    @fitflygirl88

  24. I read this a little while back and was SO thankful for the info- foam rolling is something I’ve been curious (but clueless) about, and you gave some much needed and useful insight! Thank you πŸ™‚ IG is @simplyamandap

  25. Oh my gosh, I really needed this info! I always passively roll out after a work, never sure if I?m doing it right! I was commenting because of the band giveaway and I?m so glad I went peeking around the site, this info in invaluable! Heidi you?re amazing! I love everything you post on insta and now I?ll be checking out your blog more often! Best, Sarah
    sarahfdodon (ig)

  26. Love this post! My foam roller is my ?go to? post workout. It?s definitely a love/hate relationship for me. ??
    @iphotofly

  27. I can always learn more when it comes to foam rolling! This is my favourite blog post, and my handle is @AshyL17

  28. favorite blog post ! definitely using this as reference i am in the middle of getting certified as a personal trainer and we are covering foam rolling right now thank
    you ! @karlitaglowred

  29. Thank you for this Info, it was so helpful! I love the foam roller! Love this blog post!
    @tiffanymcclure6 is my handle

  30. Thank you for the post. Very informative. Will have to incorporate some of these into my own workouts. @rebeccabbierman

  31. Foam rolling has been such a lifesaver for me, especially with my back injuries!
    Thanks for the post! @ilovemybixo

  32. After reading this, I suppose it?s time to foam roll :(((( ouch, ouch and ouch but so, so so important. :):):) IG: @phanita8

  33. Always learning and growing. THANKYOU THANKYOU for your wealth of knowledge!!! Just used these techniques after my first 10 K!!! Helped me recover faster

  34. LOVE this post!! Proper technique is so important with all exercises but so hard when it comes to stretching and foam rolling. Thank you! @mia_whitney

  35. This has got to be my very favorite post ! I?m loving my foam roller ! Who needs to spend extra money on a massage when you can do it at hone ? @lydiajessop

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